Photo Gallery | Reporter Journal: 50 + years at Charlotte Motor Speedway
CONCORD - The first race to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord was in 1960, and there are a few fans who were at that race and who will be there Sunday when the green flag falls again on the Coca-Cola 600. On Saturday, those fans who have held season tickets for fifty years or more were honored with the dedication of the "Wall of Honor" just behind the grandstand near the main entrance.
I was there as well, though not in my normal role as a reporter. I was a guest of J. Michael Johnson of Salisbury. He's a lifelong family friend and as I was growing up through young adulthood, Michael, my late brother Chris and I, and a rotating cast of other characters, attended as many as eleven races per season, including the two at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Michael invited me to go on Saturday in place of my brother, who passed away in 2005.
Michael's first visit to the track was with my father, Jake Whisenant, and brother in 1963. My first visit came a little later, it was for qualifying in 1970. At the time, qualifying took place early on Wednesday afternoon. My father had closed his business for the day, picked me up early from elementary school, and took me to the track. I'll never forget that experience, and though I was already a die hard Richard Petty fan, it was fun to see "Chargin'" Charlie Glotzbach win the pole in that white Chevrolet Monte Carlo #3. My first race was in 1971 and I still have a few frames of a home movie I shot that shows the Petty blue Plymouth #43 making laps.
Saturday's ceremony was a way to honor those who have supported the track for so many years. Speedway President Marcus Smith told the fans that the track wouldn't be what it is now had it not been for those fans who remained loyal through the years.
Each fan has a dedicated plaque with the name, photograph, and date of first ticket purchase. One man's entry is marked by the 1959. He explained that even though the first race was in 1960, he said he sat on the banks of dirt watching the speedway being built in 1959 and planning to be at the first race.
Among the honorees were two local mayors. Concord Mayor Scott Padgett has done just about everything anyone can do at the track, from selling programs and tickets, to hosting VIP's and just enjoying the race as a fan. Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer also has a plaque on the Wall of Honor.
All of the fans honored on Saturday were genuinely touched by the attention that was given to them. On a personal note, I have to say that it seemed to be to be a very genuine,sincere, and much appreciated "thank you" from Marcus and Bruton Smith, Scott Cooper, and the folks who work in the ticket office. There seems to be a true understanding of the importance, loyalty, and devotion these fans, or customers, have for Charlotte Motor Speedway.